Lowering drinking age a mistake - poll
NZPA
Last updated 10:37 12/10/2009

Most New Zealanders think lowering the drinking age to 18 a decade ago has had a negative impact on society, a Research New Zealand poll has found.

Three-quarters of the poll's 500 respondents said changing the drinking age had had a negative effect, five percent said it had a positive effect, and 17 percent said it had no effect at all.

Older people and higher income households were most likely to say lowering the drinking age had a negative effect.

Respondents were split down the middle on whether they agreed with the recommendation of a report by the Law Commission in July of a split purchasing age, where 18-year-olds could buy alcohol at bars and restaurants but had to be 20 to buy it at stores.

Fifty-one percent agreed with the recommendation while 46 percent disagreed.

Nearly two-thirds of respondents agreed with another commission recommendation that anyone found drunk in a public place should receive an instant fine.

The drinking age was controversially lowered from 20 to 18 in 1999 and since then attempts to reverse the decision have failed.

Commission president Sir Geoffrey Palmer released a discussion paper in late July with a raft of recommendations for liquor law reform to be studied by ministers.

"New Zealand has some serious problems with the use of alcohol," he said.

"Not everyone drinks in a manner that is harmful but the consequences of harmful drinking affect us all."

Sir Geoffrey said the evidence indicated heavy drinking and drunkenness were generating the most acute harm.

He wanted public submissions on the discussion paper over the next three months.

The commission's recommendations would have a significant impact on liquor laws if the Government decided to implement some or all of them.

They include:

* Increase excise tax overall on alcohol or reduce it for low-alcohol products;

* Set a minimum price below which alcohol products can't be sold a measure being developed in Scotland;

* Splitting the purchase age, leaving it at 18 for on-licence and raising it to 20 for off-licence;

* Making it an offence for an adult to supply liquor to a young person unless it is at a private social gathering, and the adult has the consent of the young person's parent or guardian;

* Putting the Liquor Licensing Authority under a District Court judge and increasing its powers to monitor trends and obtain data;

* Strengthen law enforcement by giving senior police officers the power to close bars; and

* Consider making it an infringement offence to drink in a public place.

From here.